1:55 — Jim Schutze and I both got here too late to get a seat. Six TV news cameras. We have to stand behind them, up against the back wall. Fittingly, he’s on one side of the aisle, and I’m on the other.
2:02 — Bill Zeeble is here, takes up spot on floor, right in the middle of the aisle. Also fitting.
2:03 — Garza not here as meeting begins. Ranger moves to take meeting to the auditorium, to accommodate overflow crowd. No go. Presumably to avoid circus atmosphere?
2:05 — Lowe says: “We are here to confront the brutal facts but not lose faith.”
2:06 — Jerome Garza finally shows up. No one asks why the trustee couldn’t be here on time.
2:10 — Carla Ranger stops it down to recognize elected officials present. One of whom is not Trustee Edwin Flores.
2:11 — Hinojosa says he’s taking a 5 percent pay cut and that other brass are doing the same. Carla Ranger is not standing to applaud.
2:27 — Hinojosa is wrapping up the rough outline of his plan. You’ll read more about that later. It’s complicated. Teachers will be fired. One piece of good news: enrollment is up. Too early to get excited, but that could mean more money.
2:36 — Garza: “If you think what’s happening on Wall Street is bad, wait till you see what happens to education in Texas if Austin doesn’t do something.”
2:39 — Staff is now taking questions from trustees. How’d this mess happen? “Creep.” We’ve had too much creep. Lack of control over positions. Principals going to budget office and asking for teachers they shouldn’t have had.
2:45 — Trustee Lew Blackburn, with just a little bit of work, could do a great Jesse Jackson.
2:47 — Carla Ranger’s husband is sitting in the back row, peering over his glasses, taking VERY thorough notes. If there are any reporters who missed something, ask him.
2:49 — Brett Shipp just ducked in to ask his photog something. Then he left, presumably to return to the party ball he has out in the news truck.
2:50 — Jay Gormley is in the house, chewing gum like a madman. “They brought me all the way back from Galveston for this,” he says.
2:52 — Carla Ranger asks a question of Hinojosa that can be summed up this way: $64 million is a lot of money, isn’t it? There is a woman in the second row, wearing an orange sweater, who is doing a pentecostal church thing. Every time Ranger says something, the woman in orange goes, “U-huh. Mmm. That’s right.”
2:58 — Trustee Nancy Bingham says she won’t travel for the next two years that she sits on the board.
3:00 — Trustees Ellis and Medrano have so far said nothing. C’mon, guys! Get in there. Mix it up.
3:03 — Trustee Garza says before he cuts one teacher, he wants to look at how many coaches are on the org chart. He gets an “uh-HUH” from the gallery. Ron Price immediately says athletics aren’t going anywhere.
3:06 — Jim Schutze just ducked out. As he passed me, he said in a stage whisper, “Dude, I hear Shipp has a party ball in the truck.” (I might be making this up.)
3:10 — Ellis is now the only trustee yet to speak. When she does, it better be worth the wait.
3:11 — An older woman sitting in the back row just farted loudly enough that at least 10 people had to hear it. Bill Zeeble is sitting on the floor right next to her. He HAD to hear it. But everyone is pretending nothing happened. I applaud your work, ma’am.
3:17 — Zeeble brought snacks in his gear bag. Strong move.
3:22 — Trustee Ron Price suggests cutting the number of collaborative planning periods and says cutting one would save the district $24 million. As Hinojosa points out, the district doesn’t pay teachers by the planning period; it hires them for a year. In other words, the idea doesn’t make much sense.
3:26 — Hinojosa finally seems to get sick of all the silly questions from the trustees. More or less: “We can find all the paperclips and rubberbands. It doesn’t matter. We’ve got to get this thing in shape. It’s gonna hurt. But we’ve got to do it.” Meaning: fire people.
3:29 — Except Trustee Ranger wants to know now whether we can fix this without firing teachers. “What about the $100 million in consultants?” she asks. Board President Jack Lowe has a look on his face that, if I read it correctly, says, “Someone remind me why I’m not at TDIndistries right now.” Then his mouth says, “We don’t spend $100 million on consultants.”
3:32 — Trustee Ellis finally speaks. She reminds everyone that she nearly ran down the district’s CFO in the parking lot coming back from lunch. Then she says something along the lines of “I hope we are trying as hard as we can.” Jack Lowe makes that same face.
3:44 — Ron Price likes to say the word “hell” a lot. I like his moxie.
3:45 — Trustee Blackburn is talking about getting rid of employees who don’t teach, who show up on campuses and don’t do anything. A woman in the gallery wearing a sherbet green jacket is blowing him loud kisses. I’m not exaggerating.
3:49 — A DISD cop standing against the back wall leans against a switch and, for a moment, turns of the lights.
3:52 — Ron Price calls Hinojosa “soop,” short for superintendent. Beneath Hinojosa’s gray mustache lurks contempt for Price. Maybe I’m mistaken. But I don’t think so.
3:54 — Ah ha! There it is. I wondered how long it would take before someone brought up race. Thank you, Ron Price. He wants to know the ethnicity of everyone who might be fired. He wants it “fair and not like the last time.”
4:04 — You know who strikes me as a total badass? Like she might be able to whip every trustee in hand-to-hand combat — all at once? Retired Air Force Colonel Kim Olson, the head of HR. I’m not kidding about this.
4:11 — Camerawoman in back is sitting on the ground, playing Brickbreaker on her BlackBerry.
4:15 — Olson says that at this point last year the district had 200 employees on paid administrative leave, at a cost of $2.5 million. There are now 38.
4:20 — The gallery has thinned a little. Chairs have emptied. Brett Shipp takes one in the front row and crosses his legs to show everyone that he’s wearing expensive ostrich-skin cowboy boots. Kim Olson could drop him with one punch.
4:25 — Okay, since Ron Price brought it up, let’s talk race. There are about 50 spectators in the gallery. Thirteen are media people. The other 40 or so are nearly all black folks. Employees of the district? Parents? I don’t know. But given the racial makeup of the district’s student population, I find it curious. Not saying it MEANS anything. IJS.
4:35 — Trustee Ranger is telling Hinojosa that all the trustees should have gotten the bad news when President Lowe did. He knew a day or two before she did, and Ranger seems to feel slighted. So there’s that.
4:38 — Blackburn, Ellis, and Garza have all repaired to an antechamber while Ranger continues an impressive filibuster.
4:43 — Ranger tags Price, who comes flying off the turnbuckle and drops another H-bomb. (His fifth of the meeting? Sixth?) He reiterates his concern about the racial makeup of those who might be fired.
4:46 — Hinojosa is trying manfully to end this thing. Maybe they don’t need to vote on the exigency issue today? Ellis says she needs more specifics before she votes. Hinojosa says she’ll have everything she needs by next Thursday. Ranger wants to know what’s happening next Thursday. Keep in mind, it has been mentioned no fewer than a dozen times in THIS meeting that the board would meet next Thursday. Jack Lowe calmly says, “The board is meeting next Thursday. It was in the board update.”
4:50 — The board struggles for about four minutes to end the meeting. Somebody moves. Then there is a re-move. They are struggling with Robert’s Rules of Order, totally bogging down. Three district attorneys in a corner try to untangle the procedural matter. It’s unclear what’s happening or what CAN happen. But it looks like this meeting might end with the board having accomplished, essentially, nothing. Jack Lowe wants to declare a state of financial exigency NOW. As he points out, there IS an exigency. So let’s declare it — and not act on it.
4:56 — They declare a state of exigency but DO NOT direct the district to start cutting. And there you have it. They kinda did something, and they kinda didn’t.
5:01 — Overheard TV reporter in front of administration building, into cell phone: “It’s all about some word that no one can pronounce.”
|Got your mast up?|
|Brett Shipp fixes his hair and mumbles to himself about how he misses Macie Jepson.|